The Hieroglyphs of NantucketPeter Jay Shippy
For the third time this week the oldest living human is kaput. This one was one hundred and twenty-seven years old. She lurched to her death trying to ring a garland of sword lilies around an elephant’s tusk. I mute the TV set and pour an unwavering Corbusier. I put on Roxy Music— Avalon—vinyl—and situ, baby. This porch gives good sunset, like a cheap bouffant teased into one orchid. These irradiated colors make a man question what he’s done to deserve lids. A mouthy collie from the cottage on the bluff drains my head. My skin is pumice. Poor animal needs a fold of sheep not those pussy kids. Next door’s over-watering his feckless tulips from an acid green can. The sun freckles his pincers. Sláinte! I hope he uses fugitive moisturizer. He knows I know he knows that I love his wife. There it is. Say it like that and it sounds like a song folks stumble-to in Tennessippi. No we don’t talk, not much, just nod and circle and grunt like a couple of denuded apes. We’re as subtle as chum. When I first moved here, we spoke over the hedge, metaphorically. Fences, even green ones, are against the community standards. When you live on an island you’re either Crusoe or Friday. Choose or lose. He’s a lawyer so he knew people who knew me, my business. So the first time his man didn’t pull through I fronted him an eight-ball of dope. Next day a van brought me a basket of hothouse fruit. Very nice—the pears were firm as a boxer’s ass. His dear Sara’s idea. Two years later when my fuses burst in that ice storm his wife brought me beeswax candles and we fucked. Under my Amana we listened to Pet Sounds and nibbled lobes and nipples and lemon pills. That was when her husband was serving three to seven for Hospicegate—remember? His company embezzled from the (sic) orphans. Well what can one expect from a man who tortures dahlias with Atlantic salt? Am I inhospitable? Will his peri ever winkle, again? The nerve. We got lucky, Sara and I, now and again back then. Nineteen months later, he was a free man. Sprung on a technicality. Now I play spider. Who knows what may have been? We both adored marchand de vin. Really, when I bought this Cape I was drawn to those white blossoms. That arbor ardor. He forgave her. She said that he understood. He knows I know when he’s been bad. So be good for goodness sake? He shakes the last drops from his plastic spout. Do we learn? Do we ever learn? Don’t mix business and élan. Don’t drown flowers on an island. When you’re the oldest dog in the pound, is that your last best trick? Maybe l switch horses? Leave the plastic baggie division After thirty years? I take five in my teak Adirondack and roll a number. The sun is in arrears. I use the remote to play my old CD of young Lenny Cohen.
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